Cooperative Gaming and Being Sociable

Earlier this month, Texas Tech University published a highly questionable study about the effects of “violent” video games and cooperative play versus competitive play. I only read the article once, and very quickly at that, but one take-away was that it was pre-disposed toward an anti-videogame bias from the get-go with the overuse of the word “violent” at every turn. While they kept using the term “pro-social behavior” what they were really measuring were the subjects’ level of aggression — or empathy — toward their fellow players. Unsurprisingly, the subjects were drastically less aggressive to their cooperative partners. No duh, right?

So yesterday, Engadget picked up on the study and wrote about it with the headline Gaming cooperatively makes you more sociable, scientists say. But apparently being a paid writer does not give you the knowledge that headlines are to be capitalized. Anyway.

Really? Being less aggressive, or perhaps more empathetic, equates to being sociable?

: liking to be with and talk to other people
: involving or allowing friendly and pleasant social relations

Source: Merriam-Webster

: inclined to associate with or be in the company of others
: friendly or agreeable in company; companionable
: characterized by agreeable companionship

I don’t know about you, but pretty much any definition of “sociable” doesn’t necessarily equate with aggression levels.

But let’s take the TTU article out of the equation and just take the statement in Engadget’s headline at face value. “Gaming cooperatively can make you more sociable.” I can attest the truth of this statement for myself. For all my textual chatting over the years, from BBS to USENET to IRC to instant messaging to email to texting to Twitter and other social media, I’ve always been far more “sociable” via typing than any other means of communicating.

I’m relatively certain I’ve written similar things before, probably even here on this blog but hey, that’s what we do on blogs: occasionally re-hash topics, right? :)

At the risk of appearing to pat myself on the back, I’ll go ahead and state that I was one of the more popular regular IRC help-deskers back in the mid-90’s because I always had some funny quip along with boatloads of knowledge. I helped the people who asked for help as best as I could and in the downtime I was very chatty and we all kept each other entertained. I still keep in touch with a few of the other help-deskers today.

The same went for my early days of online gaming. Probably starting with Air Warrior, as I seem to recall being active on their “forum” (was it even called a forum back then?) but certainly with my foray into MMO’s, with Star Wars Galaxies and World of Warcraft being tops of my list for “how sociable was I?” Next would be Lord of the Rings Online, as I was not only playing pretty hardcore but very active in my guild chat, the GLFF user chat, and other custom channels for other guilds and friends I was acquainted with. Then things went downhill for me and being sociable in MMOs. Until Star Trek Online anyway, but even then, the past year or so I still read all the chats but I very rarely participate. But I do enjoy that feeling, and via text I still have… I suppose that vague sense of anonymity might be a factor but it’s mainly that I’ve never felt I’m a very good conversationalist. If I’m typing my reply, well that takes time, and I can take advantage of that time to think of what I want to say and how I want to say it, perhaps even edit myself a time or few before pressing the Enter key. But face-to-face or voice-chatting? Whoah, now I’m back to feeling a bit more insecurity about my self-perceived lack of conversation skill. I’ve known people like say, Chris over at or Pete at for years online. We type at one another daily on Google+ or Twitter. We’re all quite loquacious. But stick me on a voice chat with those same people, and I’m quiet to the point of them wondering if I’m still there. Because, while I “know” them via typing, for me putting a voice and realtime communication into the mix, it becomes more “real” for lack of a better term. I stumble and stutter and freeze up a lot of the time because I don’t know them as well in that more “real” environment as I do in a more “distant” text-based environment. Or something.

The good thing is that’s something that gets better the more I do it. I was equally as quiet several years ago when Aaron from Anyway Games and Oakstout and I were heavily into gaming together on our Xbox 360s. But we did it so often that it wasn’t long before I was just as talkative over voice as I am over text. For any number of reasons, I’ve obviously gotten away from that and my “online social confidence” (as I phrased it in my Hopes for 2015 section of last year’s final post) has waned dramatically.

So what am I doing about it? To start off, I’ve done quite a bit of Toukiden Kiwami co-op with a couple guys from AGE. Also some Marvel Heroes 2015 over Steam Voice chat with some other online friends. The main guy I played Toukiden with got me into my first Destiny raid (Crota’s End) recently, where we took down Crota and me being the brand-new guy, I won the best rocket launcher the game had to offer. LOL! I’m trying to be more active (posting video clips, screenshots and comments) in the Forge Early Access client. I’ve already committed myself to playing Elder Scrolls Online and The Old Republic this summer, and that includes the group content so I’ll be working on making a few in-game social contacts plus doing the queues and seeing how things go with pick-up groups. From there, hopefully I’ll find new guilds that are friendly and that I click with. Ideally, I’d like to find something that Chris, Pete and I all enjoy and are each willing to play cooperatively because out of everyone on my social media feeds these days, those two are the ones I type with the most and whose opinions I respect the most, yet we’ve spent the least amount of time doing coop-with-voice so I’m still the most nervous or insecure around them. That needs to change!

Gaming Questionnaire

I haven’t done bandwagon-style “community” blogging in forever and a day, so I thought I’d do Jayla’s Gaming Questionnaire, which I suspect is really just an outlet to not-so-sneakily get some of us to admit our age. Smile On a side-note: I can’t even remember that last time a blog post has continued traffic seven days after the original post. Usually any given blog article has a lifespan of three days — tops, so congrats to Jayla (and yay for me discovering a new blog to add to my Feedly) for this one.

  • When did you start playing video games?
    I don’t remember the exact year but it was during the early or mid-70s.  So there, I just admitted my age. Feel free to #GOML now, ya whippersnappers.
  • What is the first game you remember playing?
    Pong. The arcade game Pong. Later Atari released a home console of Pong and I’m pretty sure my family owned one, which led to us owning an Atari 2600 console (originally called the Atari VCS).
  • PC or Console?
    Yes. Smile I love both. I go in phases where I will play heavily on one for months, then switch to the other, or sometimes even play both equally. Some types of games I feel better playing on a console — specifically, playing with a controller, which PCs are also capable of, but also playing on a couch sitting back rather than at a desk sitting forward, so it’s not just a hardware issue for me.
  • XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?
    Oy. I’m an Xbox-kinda guy at heart. I prefer the Live infrastructure for multiplayer and Microsoft overall has done a better job of keeping the service online than Sony has. However, for the current generation hardware, I defected to the Sony camp and got a PlayStation 4 because a software patch can’t fix inferior hardware. Though, honestly, both consoles this generation are running inferior hardware.
  • What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
    Ouch. This is a tough one. By what metric do I define “best?” Hours played? Favorite memories? Even using that one, my list would be extensive. Tell ya what, for this one I will cheat and just say the Mass Effect series as a whole. I don’t get to finish very many games, and I usually have a thing about not getting a sequel in a series unless I’ve finished the earlier games. I happily played through all three Mass Effect games, even playing the first one twice and most of the way through the second on on a replay. Red Dead Redemption gets a second place vote for being an excellent game overall, as well as the first Rockstar game that I thoroughly enjoyed finishing.
  • What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
    Brink. Hands down, Brink. Holy fuck what an absolute piece of shit that game was. Absolutely nothing worked the way it was supposed to. I have only two “good” memories of Brink: First was the night Aaron, Paul and I got together on Xbox Live and finished the campaign (for the achievements mostly) purely out of spite, trash-talking the game and the developers every moment of it. Second was the next day when I took the game to GameStop and traded it in.
    Since this has been primarily an MMO-oriented blog over the years, I’ll add EverQuest II as my worst MMO. I’ve owned some turds, Warhammer Online coming to mind as a piece of crap game in a piece of crap engine by piece of crap developers but even then, when WAR was being shut down I at least logged in a few times to try to figure out what was supposed to be so great about it. But EverQuest II still stands out as the single MMO box purchase I regret. I would much rather have my money back.
  • Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
    Does “most MMOs” count as an answer? Winking smile This is the age of the “three monther” after all, and for me most are lucky if I get past three days. No? Ok, seriously then. Oh, let’s see… well there was Oblivion which I famously finished out of spite for 100% completion but didn’t really enjoy it, much to the consternation of The Elder Scrolls fans in my circles. Final Fantasy 7 comes to mind. I’ve never truly enjoyed JRPGs and for FF7 that was purely a “jump on the bandwagon” thing for me, trying to understand why J-stuff (anime, manga, JRPGs, etc.) was so popular among gamers (“gamers” at the time being the readers and writers of video game magazines like EGM back then) but not with me. I primarily played FF7 to watch the cinematics, which were great at the time (though incredibly crude and primitive today) and try to understand the story from that because the in-game dialogue didn’t exactly do a great job of relating a story. Pretty sure I lost a few IQ points just from reading the dialogue, actually.
  • Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
    There are several, as I tend to march to the beat of my own drum and I like what I like, screw you all. But the moment I read this question, two games immediately popped into my mind so I will go with those. First is The Saboteur. Ever since the Battlezone games, I was slightly fanboyish toward Pandemic Studios even though a lot of their games afterward were highly flawed, or EA rushed them out the door. Probably not even the same developers who worked at Pandemic. But I felt The Saboteur was their greatest post-Battlezone achievement, and a fitting swan song for the studio which EA shuttered after The Saboteur’s release. It was also my very first 100% Completion on Xbox 360 which I am very proud of. The second game is Halo Wars, which was the swan song game for Ensemble Studios, and which I’ve written about a few times, most notably the game’s three year anniversary and also a brief Q&A I did with the developers at that time. A console RTS? The “PC Master Race” [insert rolling eyes and a coughing fit] laughed at the idea. But it was wonderful. Wonderful! Even now at 5 years old, Halo Wars has a healthy online community on Xbox Live.
  • What are your favorite game genres?
    Role-playing games and shooters get the “favorite” spot, hands-down. Those are broad terms, however. Not every RPG is anywhere near the same as another, and the same applies to shooters. And that’s a great thing! So many variations and categories within each genre to appreciate (or not).
  • Who is your favorite game protagonist?
    There have been a number over the years. Lara Croft, for example, sold me on the idea of having a strong female lead and there have been some great Tomb Raider games, especially with the new rebooted series. But I will have to crib from a previous answer and go with Commander Shepard from the Mass Effect trilogy. The Mass Effect series had some fantastic characters, and regardless whether you went with a male or female Shepard, leaned toward Paragon or Renegade paths, you gave a damn about Shepard and his/her crew and about saving the galaxy.
  • Describe your perfect video game.
    This would normally be the perfect question for a video game blogger, but I feel I’ve done it already in years’ past and as I write this answer today, I am uncertain that I even have an answer today. What I wanted a few years ago is most definitely unrealistic now, given my real-life demands on my time and not wanting to devote all my gaming energy to a single title. That hardcore, raider, open-world, yadda yadda guy is still in there yelling loudly to be heard, but as long as I’m being honest about my age bracket (see the first question above) I may as well be honest with myself that just because I “want” something doesn’t mean that’s something I “need” or can even commit to. Because if there’s one thing Real Life has eliminated, it’s my ability to commit to much of anything outside of work, because my work schedule is so hectic.
  • What video game character do have you have a crush on?
    None. Oh, sure, I can do the Guy Thing and “check out the pixel tits on her!” or whatever, but that’s not something that carries any legitimate emotional weight the way having a “crush” does.
  • What game has the best music?
    Another “best” question I cannot answer. The days of chip music are long gone and these days even the biggest piece of crap game has a professional composer writing the soundtrack. A shorter list might be “What game has the worst music?” But I’ll bite. I say Guild Wars. As in the first one. You know, the one they ripped 100% and plopped into Guild Wars 2? (That may, in fact, be one of the reasons GW2 doesn’t resonate with me? All that time and they didn’t contract its own soundtrack?) Jeremy Soule has done some fantastic work over the years on various properties, but I still love his GW soundtracks, especially some of the Factions themes.
  • Most memorable moment in a game?
    Oh gosh. So many! A successful campaign against the opposition in Air Warrior on GEnie way back in the day? Our guild harboring a non-guild Jedi friend from bounty hunters in Star Wars Galaxies? Pretty much all the big raids I did in World of Warcraft? And again in Lord of the Rings Online? The first time I took down a Scarab in the Halo series? Even the time playing Frontlines where Paul snuck up on me in a tank (!!!) and shot me in the face at point blank range still gets a belly laugh.
  • Scariest moment in a game?
    That depends on how I’d define “scary,” I guess? Most games aren’t “scary” per se, they go for “startles” instead. Back in Resident Evil where you enter the mansion and the first time the dog jumps through the window? Scared the pants off ya, didn’t it? Screamed like a little girl, I’ll bet. But that’s being startled, not being scared. One other time comes to mind, which was the first Tomb Raider game back in the day, where exploring Atlantis you climb Lara higher and higher until you can’t even see the ground anymore. It’s not so much “scary” but I definitely got that “holy shit I’m up so high my stomach is feeling queasy and my nutsack just turtled itself” feeling.

    Most heart-wrenching moment in a game?
    I’ve got three answers for this, in chronological order, because I’m OCD like that. First, when Sephiroth killed Aerith in Final Fantasy 7. You’re just shocked that it happened at all. I mean, that came out of nowhere. Sephiroth is falling, aiming at Aerith and you’re like “No. No way. She’ll move.” But no, Sepiroth goes all stabby then you’re shocked all over again. Did you see what you think you saw? No way. Then it happens: Aerith’s Theme begins playing during the cinematic and you know. You KNOW. It happened. And with that knowledge came the tears.
    Second, toward the end of Red Dead Redemption. You’ve spent all that time playing John Marston, getting to know and like the guy, then he makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his family. A very emotionally moving experience.
    Third, the goodbye scenes in Mass Effect 3. Oh, gawd! Everyone has their favorite crew members and those will be “the best” but just on an overall level, you’ve spent three games recruiting and getting to know all these awesome characters and now you’re saying goodbye because you know (or at least highly suspect) that your Shepard is about to sacrifice himself to save them all. If you didn’t get at least a little teary-eyed during any of these scenes, you are dead inside.

  • What are your favorite websites/blogs about games?
    Easy: none. Smile I have all my blogs in Feedly and the state of so-called “journalism” in the industry is so pathetic that it’s a rare event when I have any respect whatsoever for anyone who attempts to label themselves that. Almost everyone has a moment to shine, but they’re so few and far between that I rely on social media friends to link them rather than following any sites myself.
  • What’s the last game you finished?
    I don’t get to finish many games these days, so the most recent was Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon over the summer. Wonderful single-player shooter heavily laden with over-the-top 80s references.
  • What future releases are you most excited about?
    Well… as I mentioned recently I’m about to start a new job and I’ll be back to bottom of the totem pole with even less time to game than I already have, and less money to buy them. That being said, I’m looking forward to Destiny (already pre-ordered) on PS4 and Shadows of Mordor, though I’m not committed to buying that one brand-new. I have such a backlog of games, plus the handful of MMOs I play, that the smart thing to do would be wait for a price reduction or wait a full year when the GOTY version with all the DLC comes out.
  • Do you identify as a gamer?
    Absolutely, but very infrequently among “muggles” because as big as the gaming industry has become, it still has a very negative connotation among the general public either for “games are for kids” which is so untrue it’s not funny, or being a “waste of time” which is incredibly hypocritical when you consider the people who say that spend a ridiculous amount of time watching television (passive entertainment) like sports and/or “reality tv.”
  • Why do you play video games?
    Various reasons, “fun” being at the top of the list. From there, it depends on the game. Some games I like being challenged. Some games I play for the story. Some I play for the social aspect, whether it’s a co-op game with friends or chatting with guildies and strangers in an MMO. Some games I continue playing either for completion factor or progression. There are a lot of types of games, therefore a lot of types of reasons to play them. But in the end, all games are supposed to one thing in common: FUN. No one should be playing a game they don’t find any fun in.

A New Chapter Begins

I don’t often talk about my job here, and even now that I’m writing a post specifically about my job, I’m going to be vague about it for my own protection. Suffice to say those in my closest circles of online friends know what company I fly for. Here on the blog, I will simply say that for the past 14 years I’ve been a pilot at the regional airline level; a captain for 12 of those years. Those 12 years have been one of stagnation in the airline industry beginning with the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our country and the following financial crashes and depression. Feel-good pundits refuse to use that word, saying “recession” instead, but I’ll just call a spade a spade: it was a depression.

Hiring and movement began last year at a trickle, but now the floodgates are about to burst open. The past month I was made aware of rapidly changing dynamics between my wholly-owned regional subsidiary and its new parent company. Both are short-staffed on crews but the parent is forcing the issue now. So, I was one of the first batch to undergo the new interview process held in Dallas a couple weeks ago. All of us quickly became the most popular pilots in the company as the rest of the guys and gals slightly junior to us wanted all the “gouge” they could get about what we went through.

Suffice to say, Friday I arrived at one of the out stations on my trip and was greeted to an email of the Chief Pilot at the parent company, who welcomed me to the team with a job offer! So, after 12 years as a regional Captain, I will shortly become a First Officer at a legacy carrier!

In the immediate short term, the new job means a 55% to 60% pay cut, so I am already examining my hobbies. I have parts for a brand-new high-end PC picked out, which will run me $1500 or so. Undecided if I will go ahead and do that, but I likely will just get it over with so that I’ll have a more powerful system to enjoy during my fewer days off for the next couple years. I won’t be jumping on any more New Shiny MMOs, especially if they launch using the subscription model. That leaves Elder Scrolls Online on my chopping block. I’ve been subscribed since launch but haven’t played all that much. Not because I don’t like it, just because I’m not always in the mood for it plus the Stalwart Guild is just like any other social media guild and hops from shiny to shiny. (Not a slam on the guild or anyone in it, it’s just an unfortunate fact of MMO life these days when you happen to want to make a “home” somewhere but everyone else continues to bandwagon-hop.) First it was Wildstar, now they’ve returned to Final Fantasy XIV, neither of which interest me in the slightest so I’ve been all alone in ESO when I do bother to login. I’m still deciding whether to drop it outright and save that $15 monthly fee or not. I’ve recently returned to Neverwinter, being two expansions behind now that Module 4 just launched a few days ago.

In the console world, the only new PS4 games I plan on getting are Destiny (pre-ordered) and the Shadows of Morder game, and I don’t have to get that one immediately since I have plenty of Xbox 360 games, PC games on Steam, Uplay and Origin and the couple PS4 games I already own. My backlog alone should keep me occupied while mixing in the occasional PC MMO. I’d been considering an Xbox One just for the platform exclusives but with the finances I can no longer justify that.

So while this is very exciting news for my career, for my gaming hobby it means my already rare spare time is about to become even more rare and precious, as well as my annual income for roughly two years until I’m back to where I am now and then quickly exceeding salary. I’ve been wanting to focus on my backlog of games and MMOs. I guess having the job force the issue is one way to go about it! =)

2013 Resolutions

Most of my 2013 Resolutions may end up being the same as my 2012 Resolutions, most of which did not come to pass for a number of reasons, unfortunately.

The two big expenditures I had planned were: laser eye surgery, which I did list on my 2012 Resolutions, and getting a new living room furniture suite, which I did not. My girlfriend has been in support of the laser eye surgery up until this year when she was suddenly very much against it, citing long-term studies just coming out saying it "doesn’t take" in many or most cases. I don’t know. I’d still like to do something though. Eyeglasses suck, and that’s the best thing anyone can say about them. The big derailment came from having to replace my HVAC system unexpectedly, which cost me just over $5,000 and put my personal spending on hold.

Real Life Resolutions:

  • Get my résumé updated and apply for jobs. Looks like 2012 will be the next big pilot hiring boom, and I would like to be caught in that particular explosion. :)
  • Finances. Other than a few minor tweaks to my 401(k) I still have no idea what I’m doing with investing, stocks, or anything else. I may end up needing someone who can teach me face-to-face for this one, or at least get me pointed in the right direction and occasionally shove me when I turn off the path.
  • Alcohols. I still don’t know my wines, though we did go to a wine tasting at a local winery in St. Augustine and I brought back several bottles that I enjoyed. I’ve learned to appreciate a couple Malbecs but haven’t bothered to memorize which ones. I read that one Malbec is just as enjoyable as the next, but in practice that simply has not been the case. My girlfriend had been on a Merlot kick for a few years but now she’s switched to Cabernets and Malbecs. I still prefer vodka in my drinks and earlier this year I did my own grapefruit-infused vodka which was tasty! Bitter drinks still don’t cut it for me, although I’ve had two whisky-based drinks recently that oddly enough I enjoyed.
  • Balanced life. If anything, due to my schedule and being left alone most of the year, I’m probably worse off right now than I was this time last year. Funny thing about being left all alone is that eventually I just get used to it and even though I might crave company and socializing, the moment I get it a sense of resentment at interrupting my solitude and my "do what I want, when I want" enters the picture. It’s very strange and I don’t appreciate it. I did learn a few new places around me, but not in the areas I’d hoped to explore, which I still haven’t explored in any fashion whatsoever. Maybe in ’13…
  • Sports. Ha! I still hate sports. I had planned on at least following the local NFL team, the Jaguars but holy crap they’ve had such a lousy season, mostly phoning it in except for what, two efforts which had some excitement? I just couldn’t be bothered other than checking the Jags official app weekly or so to see how badly they lost. I think what most of us are hoping is that for next season some contracts are non-renewed. We still have some dead weight players and some prima donnas who either do not, can not or will not pull their weight. But hey, it’s winter and snowboarding season has started and the X-Games are next month so that’ll be good!
  • Relationship. In terms of our overall relationship, affection, growing as a couple, 2012 was a good year. Spending time together, however, was not in the cards anywhere near as much as either of would have liked, as implied in the "Balanced life" bullet point. My schedule was pretty rough most of the year and often I was home when she was traveling for work or to care for her mother. Her condo was recently sold so she’s in emergency "find a place to live" mode right now and I’m hoping she gets a place closer to my condo so we can see each other more often during the times we’re both home together. I have no plans on moving or buying a bigger place the two of us can share until I find out if I’m able to get a new job or not.

Gaming Resolutions:

I didn’t do this last year, but this year’s should be simple enough.

  • Stop buying so many games! In theory, this should be easy in 2013. The current console generation is winding down and now that the big fall season of weekly AAA releases has passed, I can stop looking forward to the next releases and instead focus on actually playing and completing the 70+ Xbox 360 games I own.
  • Try to get back into MMOs, at least a little. Last year I was pretty heavy into Star Trek Online and it’s still my favorite but doing the same dailies every day for the 8K Dilithium limit per day finally burned me out. I’ve been in-game the past week for the Winter Wonderland and it’s been fun and the game still has a nice community for the most part and plenty of players at any given time of day which is important to me with my unorthodox schedule. Guild Wars 2 turned me off almost immediately but maybe sometime in 2013 I’ll be willing to patch it up and give it a fair chance. The Secret World is one that I did really enjoy in terms of setting and storytelling but it’s a difficult game to solo and there were never any players to group with during my normal play times. Now that TSW has adopted the "Buy2Play" model (please work on shifting Age of Conan to that this year too, Funcom?) the couple times I’ve logged in, I’ve seen launch week quantities of players running around so hopefully that will continue.
  • Prestige at least once! Much as I’ve griped about Call of Duty games, Black Ops II is my favorite multiplayer game right now. I got to level 50 (out of 55) pretty quickly before new games like Far Cry 3 took me away but I’m in a bit of a quandary: do I get 55 and Prestige immediately or do I get to 55 then hang out and get a bunch of Golden Guns before Prestiging?

2012 Resolutions

I was probably supposed to make these either in December or at least at the very beginning of this month, eh? Ever the contrarian, I’m doing it now. I was seriously considering doing this on one of my other blogs which are 100% non-gaming related, but ya know what? This is my blog, and my byline is "Me, My Virtual Self, and I." Only one of the three imply games, therefore the majority me wins!

  • This year I would like to make a leap of faith and get laser eye surgery. I’m beyond sick to death of wearing eyeglasses. I have to jump through all sorts of hoops for the FAA, but that’s ok. It’s an investment in myself.
  • One way or another, I will learn about finances and investment this year. I’ve been saying this for a number of years now. The time for talk is over. I have no investments other than my 401(k) which I have no clue what I’m doing with. Entirely too much money in the bank that is not "working for me" earning more. I may have to come up with a "game-like" methodology to make it fun and keep me coming back, but this must be done, no ifs, ands or buts.
  • I want to educate myself about wine. Liquor, too, so that I have a more well-rounded repertoire of mixed drinks when I go out to a bar, but wine is more socially accepted and sophisticated. I’ve pretty much given up ever being able to tolerate a beer, and honestly that’s fine.
  • I want to get back to being more fashionable. I’ve gone several years now of jeans and tee-shirts, and it’s all fine and good to dress down sometimes when I’m home after having to wear shirt and tie at work, but I take it to extreme sometimes. Here’s where the finances and investments come in, making that money earn more money so I can afford a closet of upscale clothes to balance my downscale ones. :p
  • I absolutely need to be more balanced and well-rounded in life. Work has also become my extremely limited social life, and that is unacceptable. So, in the interest of changing myself for the better, the agenda will be:
    • Keep better track of news and events, starting locally and working out to state, national and global. I’m terrible about staying up on any news, especially local, and then retaining that knowledge and learning from it.
    • Explore my local area more. Since I’m not home much and dedicate too much time to my hobby (again, unbalanced) when I am, I’ve barely explored anything beyond the couple areas I typically shop, etc. There are plenty of cool things that come up on maps or Google or local social sites and newspapers and it’s a shame I take the area for granted and don’t enjoy it.
    • Sports. I pretty much hate watching your typical American sport. But, my goal is to pick one sport, maybe one team for that sport, and make an attempt to give a crap. I do like watching snowboarding and certain skiing but those are X-Games, but we’ll see. The only guarantee I can make is that I will not be following America’s highest-paying work-release program the NBA. :p
  • Saving the biggest for last: I’m ready to move my relationship to whatever the next level might entail. We’ve been extremely averse to the M-word, but we’ll see. Even if we never do the M, I’m not opposed to getting engaged. Or something. Living together isn’t going to happen unless I get a house or a bigger condo, though. 2011 saw both our schedules extremely busy and for awhile it seemed we were spinning our wheels only being able to see each other briefly maybe two or three times a month, meeting for dinner or whatever. We’ve gotten even closer recently, though, and not only do I not want to lose that by backsliding into last year’s behavior (whether that was by choice or not – hint: it wasn’t) but I want to keep the relationship moving forward, whatever that ends up meaning for us. :) Love ya, babe!

Happy New Year

So, here we are ending 2011. Seems that a lot (or maybe just a little) has changed over this past year within the circle of bloggers and gamers I interact with, but generally I’ve seen a degree of movement toward being more positive in their outlook on the games or type of games they play. Ironically, I just saw a couple of them on Twitter yesterday complaining how negative so many are getting, full of complaints, shouting, whining, you name it. Apparently I don’t follow those people, and that’s fine by me.

I’m sure everyone who still reads this has noticed my marked neglect of Pumping Irony this year. I just didn’t feel it, for the most part. I had a lot of fun writing about Champions Online‘s first Comic Series, though my glass cannon character got stuck (and still is) on the final fight. The draft post is still sitting there since July waiting for me to finish it, meanwhile Cryptic has the second Comic Series currently running. For the most part, I’ve damn near given up on MMOs, and what’s left of my readership are primarily MMO Gamers. Right now the exception is Star Trek Online but the catch is, MMO or not, I don’t play that like an MMO. Other than that, I’ve mostly gaming on the Xbox 360, which has become my preferred platform for everything except MMOs for now.

The Blog

[This is the "glass is half empty" paragraph] That leaves me in a predicament. I’m barely playing MMOs and when I do, I’m still not bothering to write MMO blog posts. I’m mostly active these days on Google+ where everyone who’s moved there too has been far more accepting of my non-MMO and non-gaming interests. I’m still deciding, but don’t be shocked if I just pull the plug on Pumping Irony. I know one of the top rules for writing is "write for yourself," but this is a blog, not literature. If I get the interaction I seek elsewhere – in this case, Google+ – then elsewhere gets my focus.

[Now for the "glass is half full" treatment] However, I’ve also made a pact with myself to write more in 2012. I have Pumping Irony, and I have a few other blogs that have nothing to do with gaming at all. I’ve neglected all of them, so one way or another I’ve promised myself to take time to write on at least one of them, and to finally pick up writing fiction again. So, in one form or another, I expect more writing out of  myself next year even if it’s in a location you gamer-only readers never see. I enjoy the creativity involved in putting words to paper pixel, the behind-the-scenes research, and hopefully learning new additions to my vocabulary.

What I’ve Been Doing

Other than the aforementioned Star Trek Online, as I said I’ve mostly been on the Xbox 360. But what fantastic games came out this year! The past few months (and upcoming few still) was an onslaught of AAA titles that are well-deserving of anyone’s hard-earned cash.

Role Playing:

Skyrim. Obviously the big recent RPG was Bethesda’s Skyrim. Finally, Bethesda made a game that gets it right for me. Oblivion was a chore for me to slog through a few months ago, but I did it mostly out of spite. With Skyrim, on the other hand, I finally "got" what people say about Bethesda’s games being mostly about the exploration. Oblivion was bland – nearly every environment looked identical and the same music always played. In Skyrim, everywhere I go has its own unique appearance and music. The dungeons are more varied, even though I can still spot individual 3D "tiles" (a 2D description, but you know what I mean) being re-used for dungeon construction. And something very important for me, finally a third-person view that is functional and playable! First-person melee is horrid and bland, and honestly I don’t see it improving, so putting me in a third-person camera where I can see moves that cannot be accomplished from first-person keeps the combat interesting for me.

Fallout 3. As much as I’m enjoying Skyrim, it has caused me to get an interest in finishing Fallout 3, which I last played in May, 2009. I was level 16 at the time, but I had botched a few achievements. Similar to how I played Oblivion, my goal with Fallout 3 is to finish the game (and DLC) with 100% achievements. So I deleted my previous game and started over. This time around, I still can’t say the exploration is all that exciting or interesting, but achievement-wise (which equates to quest-wise) I’ve already surpassed where I left off two years ago, but am also only level 13. I’m not spreading my points all over the place this time, mostly concentrating on small weapons and other skills that will specifically get me through the game. Which is fine, because that’s also how I prefer to play this character. Unless he gets really bad die rolls, he is far more deadly at level 13 than my former level 16 character was. And being able to quickly and violently kill the Wasteland baddies makes me smile and even laugh, which perhaps makes up for the game itself not being all that fun (from a pure "fun" perspective).

Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga. I started DKS a few months ago, and got to the point where I could become a dragon and took control of my own Battle Tower. Then other games took my attention, but I plan to get back to it as soon as possible. It’s a really good RPG with some great action moves and a lot of diversity in its freedom to create characters. I don’t often play ranged characters in RPGs (MMOs maybe but not in real RPGs) but I am in DKS and it’s a blast. Some of the higher-tier abilities are just awesome to behold, and I’ve enjoyed the story so far.


Battlefield 3. This is my new go-to shooter. I can’t say I’m 100% satisfied with it, especially some of the maps like Operation Metro that seem like more of a nod towards the Call of Duty style of gameplay, but when I’m playing on a _real_ Battlefield map, I get that _real_ Battlefield feel again.

Gears of War 3. I’ve always like the campaigns in the Gears of War series but I’ve never been a fan of the multiplayer, which I tend to describe as "shoulder rolling with shotguns." I’m just not that good at it, and because it is built around small teams (5v5) that makes me more of a liability to my team, so in Gears 1 and 2 I mostly chose to just avoid multiplayer altogether. Gears 3 is no exception – I’m still avoiding the competitive multiplayer – but with four-player co-op, Horde 2.0 and the new Beast game modes, there is so much variety with Gears of War 3 that I’ll probably give this one my vote for best value overall.

Modern Warfare 3. I own it. I finished the campaign, which was fun (for me, the best part of any Call of Duty) and finished up the series’ storyline. Multiplayer is horrible, though. As much as Black Ops multiplayer pissed me off last year, I gradually learned to at least tolerate it and would often play it even without friends. MW3 has caused me to violently rage-quit almost every single match, though. COD games have always been hyper-fast and hyper-twitchy, but MW3 seems to have finally crossed some invisible line in the sand that pushes it over the edge for me. It’s just not fun, and I do not enjoy dying, watching the killcam and seeing the guy didn’t even hit me, respawning and dying again before I can count to 5. I also don’t enjoy when I kill someone when I never hit him either. It’s sad when the COD franchise is a license to print money yet the multiplayer experience actually degrades with each iteration. In a related note, I did finally start the Black Ops campaign recently, and I’m about halfway through it. Since I only played multiplayer this past year, I had no idea whatsoever the game was set in the 1960s. Strange, but it seems to have put a slight damper on whatever semblance of positivity I felt towards the game.


Saints Row the Third. Over the top craziness in an open world. Where the GTA series went all serious on us, the SR series relishes in its zaniness. I’m not finished with the campaign yet, but think I’m getting close. The co-op is a lot of fun, though it’s a shame it still only accommodates two players. Like Gears of War 3, this one has been enough fun that I went ahead and bought the Season Pass which discounts all upcoming mission DLC.

Forza Motorsports 4. I’m not usually into racing games, especially the more sim-like ones that lock me onto the track, but Forza 4 has been quite enjoyable on a casual basis. I also picked up Test Drive Unlimited 2 which is a sorta-kinda MMO (they refer to it as a MOOR – Massively Open Online Racing) game.

Also plenty of other 360 and XBLA games have been in my roster, with more to come. I’ll try to do a better job of writing about them as we enter the new year!

Encouraging Conflict for Creativity

I was driving to work last week listening to Hair Nation (shush, just shush!) and the DJ mentioned that a hoped-for Dokken reunion fell through, with vocalist Don Dokken being the holdout. The other three original band members formed their own group called Tooth and Nail (also the title of Dokken’s 1984 album) and their first album is titled Dump the Chump. While I’m curious to see what Lynch, Pilson and Brown put together, it’s a shame to see one of my favorite 80’s bands still behaving like babies 25 years later. They’re all in their 50’s, Don being the oldest at 58. [Editing note: here we see a double-standard on my part, since one of my signature lines since high school, and one that I still live by today, is “Age is a state of mind.”] “Dump the Chump?” Really? Even back in the 80’s there were plenty of stories about their in-fighting. But you know what? Listen to the music and the performances, and I think that conflict is part of what made the songs so good. Everything had more “bite” to it, and I’ve always felt some of the internal conflict with the band also led to some of their best creativity and performances – when it was kept at a controlled level. Get out of control, as rock stars are prone to do, and you get antics like Guns ‘n Roses destroying hotels and urinating in the aisle on airplanes.

The first band that made me consider the value of conflict was Van Halen. Listening to the songs from the original lineup with David Lee Roth and you can again hear the music had more “bite” than it did after Diamond Dave left the group. Eddie’s guitar sound was certainly more raw and his soloing (and his overplaying and “noodling” as he called it) was more off-the-cuff, almost as if he was channeling his frustrations into a creative outlet. Again, plenty of stories over the DLR years of in-fighting. Once Sammy Hagar entered the picture, I got the impression Eddie was more confident as leader of the band and more into composing and arranging his music. The early years with Sammy was one big happy party with everyone getting along, and while they certainly did put out some great songs in the “Van Hagar” years, there was also something missing. The “bite” was gone.

Shifting forward in time, one example of a lack of conflict doing more harm than good was my appearance in Episode #30 of the Shut Up, We’re Talking! podcast. While I never thought the show was “bad” by any means, it was at the time the lowest-rated episode (and highest number of comments, if I recall) simply because there was no conflict at all between the guests. None. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch. I’m sure it was just purely coincidence, but every topic on the agenda Darren, Karen, John and myself all agreed upon. There wasn’t even the hint of a dissenting opinion, not even for the sake of playing Devil’s Advocate. The listener’s didn’t like it. And I have no choice to agree. I personally will not listen to a podcast with only one host, because there is no discussion and therefore no liveliness and no source for conflict to generate creativity. Even with podcasts with multiple hosts, I tend to not enjoy shows where all the hosts share the same background in whatever the topic is about (usually gaming). I’ve said before that in MMOs I personally prefer to be in guilds with a varied roster of personalities, not just a bunch of “gamer dudes” always having the same “gamer dude” discussions. Give me some non-gamers, some housewives, some CEO’s, some MMA fighters, anything but people who mimic my own background or interests. Similarly, I rank podcasts higher when hosts include both males and females. That discourse alone is plenty of entertainment value because you’re guaranteed to have different backgrounds influencing their opinions and preferences.

Paul (Oakstout) has brought up a few times recently that he thinks a gaming-oriented podcast hosted by himself, Aaron and me would be a good idea. I always burst into laughter, saying he just wants my blog bombed with hate mail when people hear me vocalizing just how opinionated I am. 😀 But he says he thinks it’s interesting because while the three of us often enjoy the same (or at least similar) games, nearly 100% of the time we enjoy them for completely different reasons and don’t always see eye-to-eye on the others’ preferences. For my two cents, while I have had some creative (and silly) ideas for podcasts before, there is no way I’m going to be co-hosting with my little punk-ass voice up against Mr. Guitarist/Songwriter Aaron and his deep babe-magnet voice. Yes, I am precisely that shallow! Not to mention, as stated above in my own personal listening preferences, it would be three dudes being dudes. An aural sausage-fest. That is not something I’d want to listen to, much less take the time to record, edit, and produce. Harry Potter wouldn’t have been as special if it were “The Adventures of Ron and Harry,” now would it? The addition of Hermione and her perspective was what solidified them as friends and an interesting band of adventurers. A few dudes waggling their wands is just that – it takes a woman to turn it into magic

Still Alive

Sorry for the lack of updates the past couple weeks. I was very busy with work since I had vacation coming up and haven’t been taking my laptop either, so no gaming on the overnights.

Vacation ended up being more impromptu than we like, but it worked out fine.

Plan A was an Alaska cruise. I had an interline discount for a seven night cruise with an outside cabin for $300! Unfortunately, it required more time than I had for vacation when you count traveling to Anchorage, starting the cruise in Seward then getting home from Vancouver. We needed two more days off than I had. Maybe next time.

Plan B was flying to San Juan for a Caribbean cruise that hit all (or most) of the Virgin Islands. Unfortunately, that cruise ran the week prior to my vacation, then is running this week, but not during the week I had off.

Plan C was skipping the cruise and just going to a resort in the Caribbean. Destinations to choose from were Aruba, Grand Cayman or one of the Virgin Islands (St. Martin or St. Thomas). I ended up picking Grand Cayman since we’d spent a few hours there on a cruise excursion a few years ago.

If anyone’s interested, I can write about the trip and the island later. Getting ready to start a trip in a bit so no time to go into it now. Just wanted to check in and let my couple readers know I’m still out here.

Menu Setting Fail

Average Battery Life for Kindle 3 with Wireless OFF: approximately 30 days.

Average Battery Life for Kindle 3 with Wireless ON: approximately 10 days.

Average Battery Life for Kindle 3 when you fly around with Wireless ON (thought it was off…) and it’s trying to get a signal the whole time: approximately 3.5 days…